'La Bohème,' Shining in the Sun
Monday, September 24, 2007
Yesterday afternoon, recognizably autumnal yet shot through with summer warmth, proved an ideal setting for Washington National Opera's annual gift to the city -- a live broadcast from the Kennedy Center presented on a gigantic screen towering over the Mall.
The offering this year was Giacomo Puccini's "La Bohème," and several thousand listeners gathered in the shadow of the Washington Monument to watch the celebrated bohemians love, lose, frolic and mourn -- and all for free.
I found this modernist production, directed by Mariusz Trelinski, much more effective on the screen than I did in the Opera House. Yesterday, watching this "Bohème" was like watching a film, with close-ups, pans, crosscuts and other cinematic touches that humanized the action and made it all seem much more intimate. And the sunshine provided a welcome respite from the darkness of the physical production.
The vivid performances -- by tenor Vittorio Grigolo, baritone Hyung Yun, sopranos Adriana Damato and Nicole Cabell, among others -- carried well to the Mall. Emmanuel Villaume's conducting remains exemplary in its breadth and lyricism.
The real joy yesterday was watching such a cross section of humanity -- young and old operaphiles hanging on every note and children charmingly oblivious to the whole proceedings -- communing together peacefully, on a magnificent day, with an extraordinary soundtrack. After last year's all-but-rained-out "Madama Butterfly," it seemed a karmic payback.
WNO board Chairman John J. Pohanka and President Kenneth R. Feinberg were both on hand and declared themselves delighted with the turnout. Feinberg even suggested that there might be a spring reprise -- a telecast of Verdi's "Rigoletto," also on the Mall, also without charge to anybody (all security and sanitation costs are paid by the WNO board).
Yesterday's performance was also simulcast to two local movie theaters and 31 educational institutions around the country.